Breaking Bad: Live Free or Die   Rewatch 
January 5, 2015 8:34 AM - Season 5, Episode 1 - Subscribe

As Walt deals with the aftermath of the Casa Tranquila explosion, Hank works to wrap up his investigation of Gus' empire.

"Because I say so."

Bryan Cranston: "Walt has found a new power, and it's his ego."

Erik Nelson, Salon:
What themes does this minor-key overture seem to be setting up? A quote from Vince Gilligan comes to mind. “There’s an old saying about Hollywood, that it doesn’t change you — success in Hollywood doesn’t change you; it just magnifies those flaws that you already possess and may have kept hidden.” As this quote pertains to Walter, it’s clear that he is now about to endure one of the most crippling side effects of fame. And that is, believing in your own press.
Sean Collins, Rolling Stone:
Most fundamentally, "Live Free or Die" cut the Walter White competence fantasy off at the knees by showing us the Walter White sociopath reality. Simply put: What a fucking creep this guy is.
The flash-forward: some evasive answers from Vince Gilligan at Zap2It's interview:
"It's frightening or exhilarating, depending on how you look at it, how little we know sometimes about where we're going," Gilligan confesses. "...Those are the two emotions we feel when we plant our flag story-wise and say to ourselves and to the viewers, 'This is where we're headed.' If I knew exactly how we're going to get there, that would be wonderful. It would take a lot of pressure off. But on the other hand, it would leave out the possibility of my writers and I coming up with further interesting ideas or avenues into which to take our characters."
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix:
"Breaking Bad," ladies and gentlemen! No messing around here! We will now spend these next eight episodes (and possibly well into the final batch airing next summer) wondering exactly how Walt is going to get from here to there, making us unable to entirely enjoy even the triumphs, because we know this low, frightening point is on the horizon.
"You know, I can foresee a lot of possible outcomes to this thing, and not a single one of them involves 'Miller Time.'"
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Aargh, this is absolutely Mike's undoing. Someone with his acuity should have not stuck around after his boss got iced; he's completely aware he's playing with fire at this point and still doesn't go with his instincts.

Also huzzah for Hank finally being vindicated. You'd think he'd get to do a victory lap at this point.
posted by psoas at 9:42 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Some of the best hero/villain pairs essentially create each other and that's what's been happening between Walter and Hank. Walter wouldn't have gotten into cooking meth if his brother-in-law wasn't a DEA agent. It was his connection to law enforcement that enabled him to get access to a criminal to help him cook and sell meth. And Hank wouldn't have become as good of a DEA agent if he didn't have Heisenberg to chase after. He essentially started off as a wise-cracking blow-hard, but his pursuit of Heisenberg gave Hank the focus and drive that was necessary to put the pieces together.

And of course by this point Walter has gone from misguided hero to anti-hero to full-on villain who most people can't really root for. Other people have to become more heroic if for no other reason so that there will be someone you can cheer on. Sure some people will cheer on Walter's criminal enterprise, but if you no longer like Walter you can look at Hank as the new protagonist.

I also like how the season starts by showing us that Walter is probably caught somehow, but it isn't 100% certain. So it enhances the experience and creates a lot of tension. Walter getting caught is such a huge change from the status quo that you almost need the advanced knowledge as a buffer to handle the huge turmoil that is coming.

As for Mike: he had no easy choice given what he knew. He should have fled, but I can see how tempting it would be to want to destroy the evidence. He wouldn't want to abandon everyone he cares for if it wasn't necessary. Of course this just ends up entangling himself with Walter more and ultimately causes the DEA to discover the off-shore accounts that would have likely remained hidden. So I can see why Mike would make the deal with the devil as he did.

Great episode!
posted by Green With You at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Walt: "Don't you think I rate a 'hello' at least?"
Skyler: "Hello."

I love that scene later with Walt, so smug and manipulative, saying that he forgives her. Then they hug, with Skyler looking trapped and terrified. I'd say that surely no one still thinks Walt isn't a villain after this episode, but I know better.
posted by johnofjack at 8:14 PM on January 5, 2015

The fate of Ted Beneke is an interesting one. Skyler is overwhelmingly sympathetic in this episode: she is clearly petrified by Walt; for Skyler, Walt's victory rather than his defeat was her worst fear. Yet her actions led to Ted's current state, and she doesn't exactly gush with empathy. Skyler is maybe too smart for her own good: she talks herself into not turning Walt in more than once, and almost traps herself along the way.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:42 PM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yes, and I like to imagine that after the White family had been in the news so long for what White had done and for Skyler's trial, that the IRS agent reopened the case against Beneke Industries.

I'm not sure how likely that is--I have no idea about the laws surrounding tax fraud--but if it's legally possible it seems very likely. You can't get one over on the federal government and run away chortling.*

*unless you're a billionaire and cause a global economic crisis or come up with some scheme like Enron did that makes everyone's eyes glaze over when you try to explain what happened.
posted by johnofjack at 3:51 AM on January 6, 2015

Yet her actions led to Ted's current state, and she doesn't exactly gush with empathy.

"I haven't said anything to anyone. I told them it was an accident. I tripped and fell. That is all they know. Just I've-- I've got children. Family. I swear to you. Please. I-- will never breathe one word of this."

posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:07 PM on January 23, 2018

I love the just-about-plausible feeling of the demolition yard electromagnet as a device for hard drive erasure. Wired did an article which tried to make some estimates.
posted by rongorongo at 3:55 PM on September 16, 2022

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